Colleagues talk about Caulton Tudor, NC Sports Hall of Famer

Former News & Observer columnist Caulton Tudor
Former News & Observer columnist Caulton Tudor PAUL MAGANN

Thoughts from colleagues of former News & Observer columnist Caulton Tudor on the newest N.C. Sports Hall of Fame inductee:

A.C. Snow

(Former editor, Raleigh Times)

As we say in the newspaper business, Caulton Tudor is ”one of the good ‘uns” of our profession. His copy was consistently good reading. His style sparkled, enriched by a colorful vocabulary and generous storehouse of allusions. His profiles of sports figures are analytical yet humanizing,

Good sports writing requires a particular skill: the ability to convey to readers the physical and emotional highs and lows of the stadium, the arena and the ballpark. Caulton excels at doing that.

Bob Harris

(Retired radio play-by-play voice at Duke, 2006 Hall of Fame inductee)

One year on the ACC Football Tour we were at Wake Forest and out by the field waiting for their football practice to end. Toot spots a football by the field and soon we’re playing our own six-on-six game. The Wake coach blows the whistle, stops practice and brings the team over to take a knee and watch us play. (Tudor: “The coach said, ‘Y’all ain’t too bad, maybe we ought to schedule you guys.’”)

Barry Svrluga

(Washington Post sports writer)

Who’s more North Carolina than Toot? I remember sitting on press row at an ACC tournament in Greensboro when Carolina’s Raymond Felton began to take over a game, breaking the press all by himself. Tudor says, “He’s like Phil Ford!” And I thought: He’s saying that because it’s true. He covered Phil Ford. He’s covering Raymond Felton. And he knows how to compare the two in style, in era, in accomplishments.

Luke DeCock

(N&O sports columnist)

When I’d get wound up on the road – “Luke’s always on the power play,” Tudor would tell people – he’d usually calm me down by citing a line from “Oliver!” of all things. He’d interrupt me, pause, and say: “Shut up and drink yer gin!” In 2006, when most of the staff was covering the Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup finals, Tudor was marooned in Omaha for two weeks at the College World Series, staying in a motel that was one step above a minimum-security prison. At the end of a long email recounting the conditions – no lamps in the room, a third-floor walk-up, “stairway is wide enough for one sports writer to climb with one suit case” – Tudor closed it with the salutation, “Oh well, here’s my advice: Shut up and drink your gin.”

As for what makes Tudor a Hall of Famer? When Dean Smith used to bum smokes off you, that gets you in, right there.

Gary McCann

(Former Greensboro News & Record sportswriter)

I start with the words North Carolina. Toot is North Carolina to the bone, growing up in the tobacco belt of the state, getting his education there and cultivating his love for everything sports in the state. He grew up in a small town, gaining those small-town values. The Hall of Fame is full of folks whose North Carolina roots run deep, but none more so than Toot. I don’t think I’ve met anyone in sports writing in North Carolina who was more well liked. I know that’s not a sports writing requirement, but it sure helps.

Mark Whicker

(Orange County (Calif). Register sports columnist)

Tudor is a symbol of a grand old time when we took our work dead seriously when we were doing it, and then left it at the office or in the pressbox when it was time to party. Most of all he savored every moment.

Brian Morrison

(ACC associate commissioner)

At the 1993 ACC Football Tour I arranged for the ACC Tour members to attend a Durham Bulls game. When the tour bus pulled up in the front of the DAP, Tudor grabbed the microphone and told 25 guys and one woman on the bus, “Look, all of these fans think we are the visiting team coming to the stadium, so when you get off the bus grab your crotch and spit.”

“So I got off first, followed by Wilt Browning, Frank Vehorn, Bill Brill, Jerry Ratcliffe and then Tudor and I heard a young boy standing next to me tell his dad, “Geez these guys are pretty old, we should beat them.” To which his dad replied, “I don’t know what they are, but that’s not a baseball team.”

Lenox Rawlings

(Former Winston-Salem Journal columnist, 2015 Hall of Fame inductee)

Tudor developed sources and disarmed otherwise wary coaches with his personality, with that infectious twinkle and smile and a manner that conveys a love of sports and of candor. I will never forget the day we were casually interviewing Duke’s Jay Williams, who mentioned that his girlfriend attended Wagner. “You know Wagner beat Krzyzewski in the early days,” Tudor said. Williams was incredulous, and in the good-natured exchange that followed became comfortable, which changed the dynamic of that interview and later ones. Tudor does that to people, by being himself.

Tim Stevens

(Former Raleigh Times, N&O sportswriter)

Tudor was one of the first people in the country to start covering basketball recruiting. Long before there were websites, long before there was a web, Tudor was calling all over the country to follow recruits. He had some incredible stories about Tom McMillen, David Thompson, Charlie Scott, etc. He wrote a column during an ACC tournament talking about how UNC basketball was going to be strong the next four years because they had just received a commitment from Walter Davis.

Rick Brewer

(UNC Sports Information Director emeritus)

Dean Smith respected his knowledge of basketball. He would sometimes take jabs at Caulton during press conferences. Because of their good professional relationship, he could do that when his main goal was really to get a point across to other members of the media.

A.J. Carr

(Former N&O sports writer, 2014 Hall of Fame inductee)

Returning to Raleigh one night after covering an ACC basketball game, Caulton Tudor discovered an injured rabbit in his backyard. Hold dinner. Hold everything. Tudor was on a rescue mission. With the compassion of a dedicated care-giver, he approached the little animal, which lay motionless on the grass, unable to walk. Tudor hovered around him, nurturing and searching for a way to help. Determining the rabbit’s leg was broken, he eventually put the patient in a towel and box his wife, Diz, provided. Tudor cradled the rabbit into my car and we went to a 24-hour Vets office. After admitting the rabbit, we sadly drove away, fearing the little fellow might not live.

“I think animals have a soul,’’ Tudor said. He followed up on the rabbit’s condition. The vets had mended the leg and released him to the woods at no charge. Tudor had helped save a life. “It was the wild life of a sportswriter,’’ Tudor says in retrospect. That episode revealed a Tudor trait. Be it a hurting animal, or a hurting person, he has a caring, compassionate heart.

Sammy Batten

(Fayetteville Observer sportswriter)

He’s someone that once you meet him, you never forget and you consider him a friend for life, no matter if you’re a superstar coach or a young sportswriter. That really says it all about why I consider Caulton a Hall of Famer. I’ve always admired his depth of knowledge, his willingness to take a stand on controversial or unpopular issues, and how he can turn a phrase or deliver a witty line. But the way Caulton accepted and made me feel at ease as a young sportswriter many years ago has always made him a Hall of Famer in my eyes. Through the years I’ve seen him do the same with countless other young sportswriters.”

Bill Cole

(Winston-Salem Journal sportswriter)

Caulton and I were on the trip west with N.C. State in 1983 for the NCAA tournament. The Pepperdine game didn’t start until about 11 p.m. EST. Late in the game I looked at my watch, which was still set to North Carolina time, and it was past 1 a.m. and I said to Caulton, “If this keeps up I’m going to miss my deadline.” Caulton, working for an afternoon paper, had a deadline of about 7 a.m. “If this keeps up,” he said, “I’m going to miss my deadline.”

Larry Keech

(Former Greensboro News & Record sportswriter)

Tudor has been the most knowledgeable sportswriter I’ve known when it comes to ACC football. He filled a void in that area during the lengthy reign of ACC basketball, when it far overshadowed its fall counterpart. Tudor was just one of a number of basketball experts, but he was on friendly terms with practically every ACC assistant as well as head coach. Nobody could turn to as many sources.

Leonard Laye

(Former Charlotte Observer sportswriter)

The late Marvin “Skeeter” Francis, assistant commissioner of the ACC, paced about the parking lot of a Virginia motel, fretting about a delay in the league’s football tour.. The bus was ready to depart. Finally, Tudor appeared. He had overslept and Francis, one of Tudor’s closest friends, wasn’t happy about the schedule disruption.

“Toot, the TIMES are the TIMES,” Francis barked, tapping his watch. Tudor, always quick to find humor in any moment, laughed as he boarded the bus amid the cheers and good-natured jeers of his cohorts. It was one of those scenes everyone, including Tudor, found funny. Even Francis, too...eventually!

Chip Alexander

(N&O sportswriter)

Thinking of Toot always makes me smile. So many stories can be told, including one in Toronto during the Stanley Cup playoffs when Toot posed as a NASCAR owner of the Bojangles racing team to help gain entrance into a popular nightspot for his “team.” That same trip the national anthems were being played before a game and someone said “O Canada” might be a prettier anthem than the Star Spangled Banner. Toot’s reply: “I guess so. Their guy didn’t have to write his in a firefight, with bombs blowing up, on a killer deadline.”

As a writer and reporter, Toot has always been professional but also pleasant, persistent but never pushy. When it came to coaching searches or pursuing other sticky stories at The N&O, he was my foxhole guy. There is none better.